Ohio police have confirmed a 10-year-old rape victim crossed state lines to terminate her pregnancy, local media reported Wednesday, in a case drawing broad attention after the United States Supreme Court overturned a federal right to abortion.
The girl's ordeal of travelling to neighbouring Indiana for the medical procedure was highlighted by President Joe Biden recently as he signed legislation aimed at helping women seeking abortions.
A trigger law banning all abortions after six weeks, with no exceptions for rape or incest, came into force in Ohio last month after the nation's high court ended decades of constitutional protection for the right to end a pregnancy.
The shocking case was questioned by conservative-leaning media outlets and Ohio's attorney general, who cast doubt on the story's veracity.
But Columbus, Ohio police detective Jeffrey Huhn testified in court early Wednesday that the unidentified girl underwent an abortion in Indianapolis on June 30, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
According to the paper, Huhn was testifying at the arraignment of a man arrested Tuesday by police who say he confessed to raping the child. Huhn also told the court that DNA samples obtained from the Indiana clinic were being tested against the 27-year-old suspect, the Dispatch said.
Franklin County, Ohio court documents confirm that a Gerson Fuentes, 27, was arraigned Wednesday on charges of rape of a person under 13.
The disturbing story, first reported by the Indianapolis Star, has drawn international scrutiny and become a flashpoint in the deeply divisive issue of abortion rights in the United States of America.
Biden spoke of the Ohio rape victim during a July 8 ceremony where he signed reproductive right protections into law and urged the US Congress to codify Row v Wade, the 1973 ruling that established the nationwide right to abortion.
"Just last week it was reported that a 10-year-old girl was a rape victim in Ohio – 10 years old – and she was forced to have to travel out of the state, to Indiana, to seek to terminate the pregnancy," Biden said, noting the girl was six weeks pregnant. "Just imagine being that little girl."
The Wall Street Journal's editorial board criticised Biden Tuesday for giving his "presidential seal of approval on an unlikely story from a biased source that neatly fits the progressive narrative but can't be confirmed."
On Wednesday it added an editorial note to the piece noting that the Columbus Dispatch had confirmed the story – but did not immediately change the article or its headline, which was "An Abortion Story Too Good To Confirm."
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, a Republican, strongly suggested to Fox News late Monday that the case was a fabrication, and there was "not a whisper" of evidence to back up the claims that a 10-year-old rape victim had left Ohio to have an abortion.
On Wednesday he reversed course, saying in a statement after the arrest that he praised the Columbus Police Department for "securing a confession and getting a rapist off the street."
Thirteen states have already passed trigger laws to ban abortion, in some states even in the case of rape or incest.
Biden, a Democrat and staunch Catholic turned abortion rights proponent, has not contained his anger, calling the abortion bans in the case of rape or incest "extreme."
A majority of US citizens – 56 percent, according to an NPR/Marist poll – oppose the overturning of Roe v Wade.